CoBPAC: City of Bellingham Political Action Committee

BootForget SarahPAC.  Forget Rural Neighbors PAC.  The City of Bellingham(COB), yes our City of Bellingham is the hottest new political action committee(PAC) north of Portland.

Sure the city may not have reported  expenditures nor filed any legal paperwork.  I wouldn’t expect them to either admit to being a PAC, nor fill out any paperwork.   But, for intents and purposes they appear to be a political action committee.

Their recent actions on two current state issues bear positive  witness to their PAC status.

The council unanimously, with Councilman Gene Knutson absent, approved a resolution opposing Eyman?s Initiative 1033′…,

Members also, in a 5-0 vote with Councilman Stan Snapp abstaining, passed a resolution urging voters to approve Referendum 71

Bellingham City Council opposes Eyman?s I-1033, backs ?everything but marriage? law

or,

The Bellingham City Council is now officially urging citizens to vote ?no? on Tim Eyman?s Initiative 1033 to limit state, county and city revenue.

KGMI: Bellingham Council Publicly Opposes I-1033, Supports R-71

There should be no doubt in our mind that when any body urges voters to approve a referendum or urges voters to vote no on an initiative they are acting politically.   But does just urging others to vote one way or another qualify the COB as a real political action committee?

In our state there is volume after volume of code, so I was pretty happy that the PDC had on record this little one paragraph summary.

A political committee is any person (except a candidate or an individual dealing with his or her own resources) who expects to receive contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure. The disclosure law applies to most groups organized to influence an election. Political parties, political action committees (PACs), and one-issue groups that disband after a single election are all political committees.

That was definitely easier than reading volumes, and pretty clear that making “expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure” qualifies as being a PAC.  We’ve already established that the City of Bellingham is acting in support or opposition to a couple of state ballot measures, but what about the expenditure part?

I know someone will want to argue that a city resolution is just a piece of paper and hardly qualifies as an expenditure, but  I’d argue back that city resources were expended on many levels that surround the resolution put forth by CoBPAC.   Check out this little thrown together list

  • People and businesses in the Bellingham pay money in taxes and fees
  • The city of Bellingham maintains a treasury
  • Salaried people are hired to do city business
  • Paid Council members spend time discussing potential resolutions
  • Press releases are issued and or interviews are done with radio and news.
  • Forums are held in public facilities
  • Forums are recorded for later repeated broadcasts
  • Paid City personnel process necessary paperwork

All that is part of the process involved in a city resolution.  Now again, someone will argue that it is only a little bitty portion of all of that and it doesn’t really amount to an expenditure.  I’ve read enough of the Herald political blog to know that if I were to have a PAC of my own, someone would be wondering who paid for the stapler on my desk, the desk, and the staple there in.  Anything and everything has a value when it comes to PAC’s and your opposition will always point the value out to you and/or the PDC.  Value matters.

In fact let’s say there was a WallyPAC and for sake of argument I was concerned with the outcome of I-1033.  At the time of this blog post I haven’t weighed in on this issue, not that it really matters because the rules apply the same regardless of position on any particular candidate or ballot measure.  But we at WallyPAC have laid out a plan very similar to the CobPAC.  Here’s our plan:

  • First we are going to hire a few people to go out and solicit funding from local people and businesses.  We, unlike the city, will merely ask rather than demand under penalty of law.
  • We’ll open a bank account to keep our WallyPAC funds
  • We retain an attorney.
  • Then we’ll hire a small part time staff to organize our meetings and meeting places, etc.
  • All of us on the board are gainfully employed, but feel our long hours should be at least somewhat compensated, so we take a small salary for our time spent meeting and discussing issues important to WallyPAC and those who have donated their money.
  • We expect to agree on a position on I-1033, but feel a focus group or public forum should be held to solidify our position, so we reserve a room at a public hall.
  • Next our staff organizes interviews and issues statements regarding WallyPAC position and our upcoming forum
  • We hold a brief public forum which is recorded for playback on BTV10
  • More payed staff time is spent processing papers, paying bills and for sure a stack of PDC paperwork.
  • We then issue our statement on I-1033 and make sure we are prominantly placed on the Heralds front page.

So what would it cost WallyPAC to compete with CoBPAC on an issue?    WallyPAC hasn’t funded an exploratory committee yet, so I’ll just have to throw a few numbers up against the screen and see what sticks.

  • Hire doorbellers for a day ~ $300
  • bank accounts shouldn’t cost
  • retain an attorney???? $500
  • small part time staff?  gotta’ be a few hundred there
  • collect a salary?  I’m humble so I’ll call it just another few hundred
  • rent a public room  – $150 to rent a room off the library, but I’m sure city hall is a bit more steep
  • a little more staff time for another hundred dollars or so
  • BTV10 videographer and a few paid spots?  I’d guess, but I don’t want to insult anyone.
  • well, buying space on front page of the Herald will be costly.  You see Wally’s emails aren’t even acknowledged by anyone at the Herald so I will assume that WallyPAC will have to pay dearly.

What the dollars add up to is not really the point.

My first point is that WallyPAC may have to pay more for a particular item, but the value is the same.  If someone gave WallyPAC a front page Herald spot, someone would be looking at the value of the spot, not what I did or didn’t pay.

The second point is that if WallyPAC mimicked  what the City of Bellingham and the Bellingham City Council just did regarding I-1033 and Ref-71, we would without any doubt, be designated a political action committee.  So why isn’t the City of Bellingham?

If even half people of Bellingham pooled their resources to act in support or opposition to a candidate or ballot measure they’d qualify as a political action committee.  Wait isn’t that what just happened?  The people of Bellingham voted in a council that is competing with individual voters on state issues.

So again, why isn’t the City of Bellingham a political action committee?

It is.

CoBPAC, undermining your vote on state issues since at least earlier this week or maybe last August during the Sanctuary City project.  Oh no that was undermining your federal vote.

CoBPAC doing what they want no matter whose vote they step on.

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